How to prepare for application to study medicine, dentistry or veterinary science?
SO if you’re thinking of applying to study medicine, dentistry or veterinary science…you probably have some questions about how it all works. Read on for some top tips from someone who has recently been through the process.
How do I apply?
Apply via UCAS like other university courses. It is mainly composed of your personal details, predicted grades and a personal statement.
The deadline for submission is a few months earlier than other courses so get preparing your application in plenty of time to avoid panicking/rushing.
To apply for medicine or dentistry you have to complete an admissions test beforehand in the cycle of your year of entry. Check out http://www.ukcat.ac.uk and http://www.admissionstestingservice.org/for-test-takers/bmat for all the info on both.
Which test you take depends on what university you apply to.
The way each university uses the test varies, so it is imperative you choose where you apply carefully to maximize your chances. Ask on open days or email the admissions team asking how they use it when selecting applicants.
The key to these tests is practice, online practice especially.
There is no way to short cut the tests but familiarizing yourself with the questions should help, especially under timed conditions. There are plenty of websites and books with examples, whether you pay for lots of practice papers is up to you but I personally found https://www.medify.co.uk particularly useful.
This is the part of the application most applicants stress over. The personal statement is a chance to demonstrate your understanding of the career, why you want to study medicine and what you have learnt from your experiences. It is important to acknowledge the key qualities of a doctor and how you have developed these over work experience or achievements. Focus on communication skills, empathy, stressful environments and professionalism, particularly with the general public. Don’t worry if you don’t have lots of specific work experience, volunteering and any part-time jobs are good as long as you can explain what you learnt from them an how it relates to skills of a dr. Try to find volunteering at a residential home or charity like British Red Cross/ St Johns Ambulance as an easy way to talk about the above.
DO NOT LIE ON PERSONAL STATEMENTS. This is the worst thing you can do, and will almost certainly be obvious when it comes to interviews or if a false claim is found out it will immediately dismiss you from the process. Universities want honest and trustworthy students - you will have plenty of skills there is no need to falsify any.
To start a draft, think of reasons why you want to study medicine and what inspires you about it. Make a list of all your achievements, part time jobs, volunteering or positions of responsibility. Select those which are most impressive but also most relevant to being a doctor. This tends to go in the latter part of your PS.
Get only a couple of people you trust to read it and give you an honest opinion. A family member may spot a major missing achievement or quality you haven’t thought of!
Be aware the PS will not happen overnight so start EARLY and even more importantly make sure you have the relevant experience in the first place! You can even join some preparation courses such as Academic Summer Plus Medical Studies preparation programme. This way you will get advice and guidance from specialists. It is about your future!
If you are lucky enough to be invited for an interview, preparation is key. You will need to know your personal statement like the back of your hand and have lots more to elaborate on what you have stated (the panel will almost certainly have read it before you go in). I strongly suggest keeping abreast of the news in the medical world and politics surrounding the NHS.
Again practice is important; some schools even conduct their own practice interviews. Come up with a list of questions like ‘Why do you want to study medicine?’ ‘What are your strengths and weaknesses?’ etc and get an adult who you know (not a family member) to ask you them. Practicing being quizzed under pressure will help when it comes to the real thing. Have a read of ‘Tomorrows Doctors’ http://www.gmc-uk.org/Tomorrow_s_Doctors_1214.pdf_48905759.pdf to know the expected qualities of a doctor so you have some key words for the panel.
Some universities have Multiple Mini Interviews (MMIs) which involve stations of problem solving, communication, ethical dilemmas and other non-academic qualities. You are observed on your performance to different scenarios rather than a traditional interview panel. Again, try to find some practice scenarios online or ask older peers who have experienced MMIs.
Know something unique about the university and their course you are applying to if they ask the question ‘What made you apply to X university?’ eg Nottingham doing the BMedSci/Good Sailing club in Southampton!
SMILE. The most basic form of communication, it shows you are happy to be there and will leave the panel feeling positive about you.
DON’T PANIC, they are looking to see how you cope under pressure, so speak slowly, think about the question being asked and stay calm and composed even if you don’t know the answer. It is better to admit you don’t know or understand the question than to panic and say something silly.
For more advice consider summer Medical Studies preparation weeks either in London or at Sidcot near Bristol.
Importantly, before you apply to medicine I urge you to speak to as many doctors/medical students as possible on their experience and what it is actually like to be a doctor. Ask them what they like and dislike, the challenges of being a doctor and how they have found their career so far. Medicine is a marathon not a sprint and commitment is vital, you don’t want to be stuck having not asked the right questions earlier about whether it is the path for you.
Don’t be disheartened if you don’t hear back from the universities for many months, they receive thousands of applications and it is a timely process.
If you do get rejected, then take some time to decide whether you take a year out or apply post-graduate after another degree. Bear in mind postgraduate medicine is much more competitive than school leavers medicine. A gap year can be a good way to have fun, earn money ad get more relevant experience to reapply, many people go an volunteer abroad, get a job as a health care assistance or in a nursing home. This is a great way to earn money for some travelling and to show off your newly found skills and not just wasted a year applying again. To reapply admissions tests will need to be sat again.
Written by Alice Hayman, Medical Student